Scattered Thoughts – Archetypal side of Hisone to Masotan

     You probably have heard about Hisone to Maso-tan (otherwise I wonder what brought you there). The other part of the title might seem too mysterious, because I’m not talking about the so called character tropes (you know, tsunderes and stuff). We’ll get to that. Lately I’ve been reading some Carl Jung and similar stuff for fun and that actually has been quite educational, thought provoking and, well, fun to some extent. For those of you who don’t know, Jung was one of the minds behind contemporary psychoanalysis (you know, Freud and stuff). One moment it suddenly dawned to me that there’s a deeper layer that can be extracted from HisoMaso. It’s not just a tale about the confrontation (particularly woman’s) between love and work.  Well, I still know next to nothing about psychology and similar matters but I tried to dig deeper and my thoughts and interpretations seem to sort of make sense, so I guess good for me.

Hisone to Maso-tan poster

     So, what are we going to talk about? What are the archetypes if they don’t mean character tropes? Some may use the word in precisely that sense but then it’s only a niche description, because archetypes, as they were first defined, meant a far broader concept. First, there’s a concept of collective unconscious. No one would object that humans possess unconscious on a personal level. The thing is that apart from that there’s another layer of unconscious that’s common to absolutely all the humans. Of course, that is if the theories are correct because it seems they’re damn hard to rigorously prove. Collective unconscious sort of resembles instincts – every duckling will follow the first being it sees thinking it’s its mom, and that’s an innate and unlearned thing. Archetypes are similar. They might be defined as specific innate ideas and concepts possessed by humans universally throughout the world. So far pretty vague, right?

Wise old man Gandalf, Yoda, Dumbledore, Obi-Wan Kenobi

     Let’s take an example. Some archetypes are specific personality types (or tropes if we name them differently), for instance a wise old man. The concept surfaces out in many stories and myths. Have you ever thought that Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings, Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars, Dumbledore from Harry Potter or Merlin from Arthurian legends are strikingly similar mentor figures? That’s because the concept is familiar and easily recognizable to all the people. Myths, legends and fairytales (and especially religions) have had centuries to be polished and retain only those ideas that people retelling these stories found important. Archetypes need not only be specific personalities – they can be certain symbols (an apple) or processes (birth). Also, archetypes seem to love duality – good and bad, night and day, male and female, a good king and a tyrant. It’s interesting that archetypes don’t have clearly defined boundaries and because of that a character might be a projection of several (possibly even contradictory) archetypes. So you see, anime tropes like a yandere may be seen as some specific cases of archetypes proper, but they are only a recent and not very widespread phenomenon so I’d argue that a “character trope” rather than an “archetype” is a better description in that case. But enough of the theory, let’s dig in and see what can be salvaged out of an ordinary and innocent anime. Beware of huge spoilers at every corner.

Hisone grumpy

     As Hisone is the protagonist, she can be associated with the Hero archetype. Heroes don’t always are automatically better than everybody else (it’s not some Greek myth), there’s always a demand for an every-man hero. Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit simply happened to find the Ring. Pretty much all of the isekai genre is built on this idea – a layman gets transferred to another world and finds out that he’s kind of competent actually. Hisone also fits this role by choosing her future in JSDF on a whim after seeing several planes.

Hisone to Maso-tan Sada-san

     I already mentioned a wise old man, and guess what – a wise old woman also counts. Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings, McGonagall from Harry Potter or a fairy grandmother in some fairytale could be nice examples of that. Of course, rarely such a person goes around dispensing yoghurt but times change and Sada-san needs to somehow get by. Nonetheless, old ladies especially in fairy tales tend to be revealed as witches, and Sada also has that trait – she pushes the girls quite a lot around to achieve goals that don’t really mean much to them. Thus she is the projection of two contradictory archetypes. I told you, that can happen.

Hisone to Maso-tan Nao delinquent

     Nao gets the role of a Trickster – think of Loki (I’d say from Scandinavian mythology but oh well, it’s also the same old Marvel Loki). It’s a person who isn’t predictable and will choose sides depending of the outcome and future profit. A trickster being not a bad person per se might help you, a trickster might cause you lots of problems. Running away, or becoming a model for that large plush doll (that actually was pretty useful) – you never really know what Nao might do next.

Hisone to Maso-tan Natsume

     Natsume’s case is really interesting because she might be thought as Hisone’s alter ego, her polar opposite, or, as Jung called it, her Shadow.  They are the same, and at the same time each other’s antithesis. Natsume is similar to Hisone because she says things in a very straightforward manner, but she’s far more perceptive of herself – she knows that she loves Okonogi and expresses that. Only Natsume doesn’t give a damn about her outspokenness while Hisone always feels unsafe about saying something she shouldn’t. Natsume knows Okonogi well, only it’s his past self. Hisone has a lot to learn but she’s better with the present Okonogi. For the final mission Natsume was the most important person while Hisone opted out, running from her problems rather than facing them head on. In the end Hisone was able to confront her shadow by saying to Natsume’s face that she does love Okonogi and (even if that argument is stupid) therefore Natsume has to live on. Even then the girls chose different paths – Natsume understood that she wants to live on while Hisone with that idiot smile of hers decided to become the sacrifice.

Hisone to Maso-tan dragons

     All this stuff seems nice enough but what pushed me to thinking differently about the show was something else – it’s all this dragon stuff. The hero goes on a journey and encounters a dragon – haven’t you heard such a story before? But why a dragon? Well, it’s the ultimate evil in the Western culture, an endless source of wisdom in the East – both of the images convey something that is extraordinary, something unknown, something unknowable and therefore scary. Why do kids (and not only) fear darkness? Why masks are scary? It’s because of the unknown. You never know what kind of creature might lurk in the dark, nor can you see facial expressions of a person wearing a mask, therefore you can’t predict the future. Without knowing what future holds, you can’t plan your behavior – you’re completely lost and unprepared, because you can’t possibly prepare for every single possible scenario. And dragons are exactly that – an ominous force that you have to reckon with. It’s no wonder that the deity – Mitatsu-sama – is never shown fully – to the very last second of the show it remains a mystery, something shrouded in clouds, unperceivable. Therefore – scary. A dragon is a problem, an obstacle that should be eliminated in order to proceed with the ordinary life. It’s not necessarily a literal dragon – it’s an idea of encountering something you’re not prepared for. Just “a problem” might sound too abstract but archetypes aren’t precise in the first place. Also, not specifying things allows much space for interpretations, and I do like that.

Hisone to Maso-tan mad dragon

     It’s actually the oldest story on earth – a hero who goes on a journey to slay a monster. Beowulf? Check. Gilgamesh (no, not the guy from Fate)? Also check. Heracles? Odysseus? Also check to some extent. Even Jesus Christ might count as it’s said that he came to overcome the death itself. All the heroes had to work hard and overcome something terrible. A hero might be anyone, actually. And a monster can be anything. You need to pass a math test? You’re a hero and the test is a monster. You need to go on a job interview? You’re a hero (again), and the sharp questions of the interviewer are a monster. You have an eating disorder? You’re a hero (yeah, yet again) and junk food is a monster. Anywhere you feel uncomfortable, any time you need to work hard to overcome something you’re a hero trying to slay a monster and reach your goal.

Hisone to Maso-tan Hoshino Norma

     It’s no wonder that Masotan (and others) are unpredictable dragons and not, say, unicorns. An encounter with a dragon will inevitably change a person – you might end up being wiser, you might end up richer. Or you might as well end up dead. Still, you can’t defeat a monster if you don’t see it. You have to look straight at it and be truthful to see its true form. Oedipus was allowed to pass only when he answered the question of the Sphinx correctly. You say the true words “Open Sesame” and the door opens. Hisone tried to run away before agreeing to pilot but eventually she confronted her fears (and got into the damn dragon). Hoshino was able to move on only when she was able to understand the feelings of her dragon, Norma. And that happened on a lonely island – a perfect metaphor for solitude, because you must face your inner problems by yourself. Actually, it’s just like a self-help book scenario: first you identify a problem, then don’t run from it, you understand the responsibility of facing it, confront it and then master it. Even the way a dragon swallows a pilot comes very close to problem-solving. A problem might eat you and chomp you to death, unless of course you deal with the situation.

Hisone to Maso-tan Mitatsu-sama

     Humans love grading things. There’s a reason why MAL exists, for example. We like to know that our favorite sports team went to semi-finals while their rivals lost at a group stage. We love leveling up in video games. And especially we love increasing stakes. Especially Western culture is obsessed with stories that have a beginning, a development that moves to the climax and then an epilogue. A hero isn’t a hero if he doesn’t win. When he wins, he’s pretty good, but it is all? Wouldn’t it be more heroic if he slayed a bigger monster? Many stories (khm, anime, khm) sometimes lose the touch of that and soon after dealing with a childhood friend turned bad the heroes march to save the universe. That’s a bit too much – a sports team that won a national league won’t call itself world champions, right (yeah, America)?

     Meanwhile after the expedition to the island HisoMaso didn’t choose too high stakes as the actual goal of the pilots became revealed – to confront Mitatsu-sama. The interpretation becomes quite literal – after dealing with little problems, the girls encounter a very large one who, again very literately, has to be put to sleep. Thinking again about the gradation – first you have to deal with your own, inner problems before trying to save the world.

Hisone to Maso-tan Hoshino love problems

     Remember the Song of the Nibelungs – Siegfried (or Sigurd if you prefer the Norse version) killed the dragon and bathed in its blood, becoming nearly invincible. The same goes for Achilles or Heracles who were extremely strong heroes, hardened by luck and their adventures, but they still had their tiny flaws that in the end became their undoing. The girls in the show had already tamed the dragons, matured and prepared to use the new-found strength to confront the new big unknown. As the show stated itself – “by interacting with a dragon they discover their identities.” All seemed well but then love came in the way. The idea that D-pilots can’t love anyone else except their dragons because otherwise they won’t be able to pilot well may mean that you have to concentrate on your problem completely – any half-assed attempts will be ineffective.  A person watching the show (for example me, or Hisone herself as a matter of fact) will probably feel that the right choice should be love and not work – screw the Earth, shipping is always better. Yet looking from the perspective of humanity you either have to find a third way (as eventually Hisone did) or stick to the work route. In terms of archetypes everything can be interpreted in a similar way – you might need to be very harsh and choose something that you don’t think is best for you at the moment, but otherwise you won’t be able to approach a problem.

Hisone to Maso-tan Okonogi fluffy

     You can’t defeat a monster without making a sacrifice. You want to be a good public speaker – you spend your free time talking and talking. You want to cook well – you train in the kitchen. Frodo lost a finger so that the One Ring could be destroyed.  In order to become better you have to get rid of some part of yourself so after the defeat of a monster you could fill yourself with its power (the same idea of Siegfried bathing in dragon’s blood). Hoshino sacrificed her relationship with Zaitou. In terms of love, Hisone found a third way, not wanting to choose Okonogi over Masotan (or vice versa). In the end she happened not to choose any of them – she decided to sacrifice herself, to sabotage both of her relationships  in order to set things straight with Mitatsu –sama and, of course, to save the world. Hisone’s sacrifice was accepted – she succeeded and therefore was reborn – she bathed in a blood even of a bigger monster and became invincible – Okonogi eventually found her again.

Hisone to Maso-tan helping Nao

     You can argue that Hisone to Masotan wasn’t perfect in it’s structure, development and execution of the ideas, but the ideas posed were powerful enough, and both the soundtrack and the visual department worked wonders. It’s a fun little show, but upon a deeper inspection it taps into something very ancient and common for all the people. I hope I opened a new window to look upon HisoMaso or at least encouraged you think about it. My second viewing of the series made my impression of it better in the first place, but with this another newfound layer (that I have no idea if it was intended or not) everything seems even better. Of course it’s always an open question if an author wanted to, say, emphasize that some character who’s about to enter a building feels deep emotional perturbation due to internal conflict that stems from a traumatic childhood. Or it’s equally possible that the author simply and randomly wrote that the door of the building was red. It’s up to you to believe one thing or another but it’s always fun to overanalyze things. Do you think my thoughts make any sense?

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3 Comments

  1. Loving the connections the the traditional archetype it is fun that these things can be picked out in most stories over and over again.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Yeah, it’s very satisfying when you see something click like that. Especially since I doubt that the creators consciously tried to pursue all the connections.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
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